The time between earning a CDL and getting your first trucking job can be a nerve-wracking experience, full of uncertainty and questions. What will your life be like once you become a truck driver? What is expected of you? And how can you prepare for this job?
Yes, it’s a time of upheaval in your life, a major change in the day-to-day way you live. So what should you expect from your first year as a truck driver?
Don’t look for Mr. Right, look for Mr. Right Now
First, don’t expect to get your dream job right out of the starting blocks. It’s going to take some time to settle in to the routine, get all of the rules down pat, and get comfortable behind the wheel. Barr-Nunn trucker Dave Casanova says that first year is key to development. “The first job you get out of school most likely won’t be the one you stay at for 20 years,” he said. “The first job is where you should be learning about everything you need to be safe and compliant.”
By focusing on safety and development the first 12 months, you are more likely to establish good driving habits that will serve you throughout your career. Let your ambition rest and focus on building solid skills during this time.
The important thing is finding a job. You can go after a good job down the road, once you’re skills are where they should be. But getting yourself employed is your first goal, so focus on meeting it first.
Expect to do the dirty work
Low man on the totem pole is the one who has to do the dirty work, and paying dues is as much an issue in trucking as in any field. If your trucking company has a “undesirable load” it needs to haul, you may be the person called upon to perform the task. All part of the job, says a Trucking Truth blog article on the subject. “Someone has to haul them. Sometimes it’s easier to get a new guy to take them rather than a veteran.” Understand that doing the tough stuff is a down payment for someone else doing it down the road.
You will be tested
Your new employer will want to see what you’re made of. Can you deliver the tough loads on time? Can you be counted on when the chips are down? Will you put the company first? These are all things that your supervisors and managers will want to know about you, and they will put you to the test to find out. Don’t take the reputation you build in your first year lightly; it could follow you for years to come.
Have a good attitude
The key to success in most any job is having a good attitude. Care about what you are doing, but don’t look at yourself as the be-all, end-all when it comes to doing things “right.” It is important to consider other people’s ideas and feelings as well, especially when you are the rookie. Give yourself some time to grow into a role of authority, and until that time comes, respect the veterans.
Getting used to the lifestyle
There is no way around it: being an OTR truck driver is a tough lifestyle, and it’s not for everyone. Weeks out on the road, long hours, then on to the next job. It takes a special kind of person to even consider it. Even if you are that person, it can be easy to become burned out if you don’t cope with the demands of the job. Stay in contact with your friends and family on a regular basis, and maintain connections as much as possible. Don’t miss out on opportunities to live life while you’re chasing your career.
Truck drivers are a unique breed. If that’s the fraternity (or sorority) you’re looking to join, do your all to ensure you can stay in the field for the long haul. You will be tested, and a trial by fire is an apt way to describe your first year of trucking. Come through that trial sparkling and cool on the other side and get your career into motion.